Theatre Passe Muraille hosts fun, modern and inclusive Toronto town hall meeting
This Must Be the Place: The CN Tower Story is an inclusive, engaging “event”. It is a hyper-intense multimedia event and very modern. The audience is even invited to Tweet and text early in the show, to “be real people” early on.
To create the show, the young team of creators interviewed scores of Torontonians. From former mayors to the homeless, virtually all segments of our city are represented.
These vignettes, or snapshots, are then used to create a “journey” for the audience to share and participate in. The CN Tower Story performers shake all these pictures like a Polaroid picture. A vivid impression of Toronto develops along the way.
Even the seating is interesting. There are “bleachers” on either side of the main performance space. It feels a bit like being at a sporting event where the fans are part of the action.
The show is almost group therapy at times. The audience and performers explore and discuss what it means to be a Torontonian. There is a dialogue between us, but it’s not typical improv sketch comedy.
The CN Tower Story begins with a simulated subway journey. It’s somewhat jarring and disorienting, as it often is when travelling underground. Shortly after that “ride”, we get to know one another.
The four performers on stage created The CN Tower Story. Along with Director Jonathan Seinen and dramaturge Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, they represent Canada from Newfoundland to BC. They all come together and create the mosaic that is multicultural Toronto.
There is a game of scruples conducted by performer Greg Gale. We vote thumbs up or thumbs down on various ethical concerns that most Torontonians take for granted every day.
The word experimental is used in the show early on. The CN Tower Story is very much an experiment. Some parts work fantastically. Others aren’t as successful. All are worthwhile.
It’s almost improv at times, acrobatic at others, with folk music interludes. It’s a bit like riding the subway in an unfamiliar part of town. Things fly by quickly with interesting things popping up in all sorts of places. Likable performers and great use of the theatre’s space and levels help to make it all seem recognizable but new at the same time.
The segments range from absurd to sweet. Thomas Olajide recounting his first kiss and falling in love in Toronto is captivating. This is just one of many pieces of The CN Tower puzzle that would be great to see further explored.
Greg Gale portrays a hilarious dance instructor who has an injured leg. I would really like to see more of the instructor. He is an interesting character who wouldn’t be out of place on a sitcom like Seinfeld. Gale nails several characters and is a natural onstage.
There are four onstage performers in all. Georgina Beaty and Ingrid Hansen are the other two facilitators of the “rap session”. Like the males onstage, the females ooze charisma and optimism.
Many professional sports teams play in the shadows of The CN Tower. This show tackles the most dysfunctional of them all, City Hall. Theatre Passe Muraille is transformed into Council Chambers. The debate about banning plastic shopping bags is re-enacted. It’s just as mind-boggling to see it a second time.
The show ended up not being much about The CN Tower at all. It’s a collage of present day Toronto. The GTA is covered from Mississauga to Scarborough, from Jane and Finch to Bloor and Bathurst. Like the city, the play keeps evolving. Each performance will be slightly different.
It’s not true that fences make for good neighbours. Inclusion, honest discussions and caring people like the Architect Theatre Collective do. It would be great if this show played in schools, for new Canadians and for our current batch of elected officials. The CN Tower Story is a conversation that needs to snowball!
- This Must Be The Place: The CN Tower Show is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) until October 27, 2012
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm, with additonal matinees on Saturdays at 2:00pm
- Ticket prices range from $15 – $35
- Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-504-7529
-photo of Greg Gale, Georgeina Beaty, Thomas Anthony Olajide and Ingrid Hansen by Aviva Armour Ostroff